This Sunday, Carol's sister Sylvia, Linda Colwell and I will be ready with a fine assortment of foods when the Hillsdale Farmers Market bell rings at 10:00 AM. According to Carol, the Buffalo snow largely missed the Finger Lakes, so it is just plain cold.
The greens are still recovering from the harsh east winds we had last week. They should pick up by the next market. We will leave them alone for now.
This market we will have a good supply of beans, cornmeal, hulless barley, frikeh, cayennes, and pumpkin seeds.
Squash is ready this week, by the slice and some smaller fruits to sell whole. We will have both Sibley, a lighter citrusy fruit of the maxima group, and Musquee, the classic market squash in the moshata group.
Knob celery, sweet potatoes, black radish, horseradish and spuds will round out the root selection. Oh yes, and this was a great onion year, the best we have ever harvested. We have some fennel bulbs and other odds and ends as well.
We will have preserves as well. If Uncle Horatio is a bit generous with the preserves on his morning toast and you run out, or Delilah wants a special type for her amazing cheese plate, a supply is close at hand. The following stores have received fresh deliveries of our preserves and should be well stocked:
City Market, 735 NW 21st Ave.
Food Front, both Hillsdale & NW Thurman
Foster & Dobbs, 2518 NE 15th Ave
Our Table, 13390 SW Morgan Road, Sherwood
Pastaworks, 3735 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Vino, 138 SE 28th Ave.
Regarding black radish:
Around here, we have a hunch that black radish is the kale of the future, one of those dismissed vegetables that will suddenly become a must have because it is packed with outstanding nutritional qualities. In particular, it is renowned as a liver stimulant, which is why it is favored in northern European countries where the winter diet is rich in pork fat and the denizens imbibe beer generously to warm the gloom of the shortened day. Crap, that sounds just like Portland.
To prepare it, we shred the root - peel on - with a mandolin and then salt it heavily for a half hour or so. This tempers its wilder, harsh nature, and tenderizes the flesh. Rinse the salt off, and dress it as a salad with either lemon juice and olive oil, or a dab of sour cream. Treat it as you would a pickle, a nice morsel on the plate. Today, Sylvia and I had a mixed root salad with black radish, knob celery and carrots to accompany our purgatorio bean soup.
My father grew black radish and had a special German tool that sliced the root paper thin. He would salt the slices as a accompaniment with beer, and as kids we loved their sharp flavor even before attaining drinking age. I have not travelled in Germany during black radish season, but he told us that the taverns always served these radishes to keep beer steins empty, and to keep the livers working well. A healthy symmetry.
Some people cook them, but that is, for the moment, beyond my ken. Maybe we can get Linda to figure that out.
A note on storage:
We keep onions, spuds, roots and greens in a cool, shaded, moist location. A breezeway or overhang that catches a bit of rain on a gust is good. A garage is okay if the roots are kept moist. Throw a wet dish cloth or two on top of the roots. Do not let the roots freeze, though, bring them in for the night if gets very cold. Onions, on the other hand, are amazingly resilient. They can freeze hard as a stone and are just fine, thank you.
Our cornmeal is stone-ground from the whole grain, so it is high in perishable oils and provides an irresistible bouquet for pantry pests. The meal is best stored in a mason jar in the refrigerator or freezer. Glass protects it against odors from other foods. Frikeh lasts longer stored in this manner.
Mature beans and grains do well in a cool, dark place, not damp, but not very dry either. The cellar or garage is not a bad location, provided it is protected from rodents. It is not necessary nor do we recommend refrigerating or freezing them. Cayennes can be stored in the same manner. We deseed and remove the membrane from some and keep them in a mason jar in the kitchen, grinding them as needed.
Whole squash and sweet potatoes are organs of tropical plants, and die if kept in a cold place. They will last upwards of a year on the counter in the kitchen. Keep them at 60°F (15°C) or above. Both organs reach their peak quality in December and January. Do not bother trying this with Brand X sweet potatoes as they may have been put in cold storage and thus are physiologically dead already. Ours are treated with kid gloves because we propagate the new crop from them. We don't even put those we plan to sell into the van until we are ready to leave for Hillsdale, lest they get chilled overnight.
Sliced squash will hold a few days in the fridge. Otherwise, cook it and freeze the puree until needed.
Preserves unopened last well neigh forever in a cool dark location. Once opened, into the refrigerator they go.
Following on the heels of many inquiries, here is the latest version of our bean propaganda as handed out at the recent Variety Showcase put on by the farming impresario Lane Selman and the Culinary Breeding Network:
All of the beans and grains sold at the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market are grown by us on the farm. We do not repackage other farms’ production, or buy bulk beans for resale, and we are certified organic.
A theme running through Ayers Creek’s grains, legumes and vegetables is adaptation to our latitude, the 45th parallel. We look to maritime influenced regions such as the Bordeaux and Dordogne, Galicia in Spain, the Po River Valley, parts of the Danube Valley, and Hokkaido, Japan. We are not bound by such an analysis, but it is a useful vetting mechanism.
Our primary selection criterion is a bean that can be savored on its own, just a bit of salt and olive oil. Over the last 12 years, we have grown a wide diversity of dry beans; the beans below we deem worth growing. Cute stories and pretty color patterns don't carry much water with restaurants or habitual bean eaters; the flavor and texture are everything once it gets to the plate.
We prefer soaking the beans overnight before cooking. The bean is a dormant, living plant. When you soak it, the plant opens up its toolkit of enzymes and starts to break apart the large protein and carbohydrate molecules that store its nutrients and energy. In our experience, soaking lends the bean a discernible sweetness and a smoother texture than just hamming things apart with heat. We treat soaking as an elegant step in the process rather than an inconvenience. However, with a good bean, it is best to cook it however you want. If the ritual of soaking irritates or crimps your style, relax and follow some other method and hammer away. Regardless, you are not affecting the nutritional value if you soak the beans, and toss out the soaking water.
The next day we drain them, add fresh water, bring to a boil and then simmer until tender. Time varies by variety and age of the bean. You can also add herbs, carrots, onions and celery to season the beans. If the dish calls for meat, we generally cook the beans in water first so they retain their own flavor. Avoid cooking beans in an acid liquid such as tomato sauce because they will not cook properly, remaining tough and grainy. It is fine to add salt whenever you want. We follow the late Judy Rodgers suggestion to salt the cooking water to taste. Refrigerate the beans in their cooking liquid.
The church on the way to town has one of those boards updated with infuriatingly banal dictates. This week, it tells us "freedom isn't doing what you want, it is doing what is right." In our world of beanality, freedom is cooking beans exactly how you want; that is the right way. Unless you want to get really, really sick because of some ordeal poison fetish, though, never, ever eat them raw.
Borlotto Gaston - Result of a decade of work on the great Borlotto Lamon. It is a superb in every respect. We have been selecting for earliness, short harvest period and four-bean pods. The last trait is very import determinant of flavor and texture, more is packed into fewer seeds. Chestnuts spring to mind as a description of the flavor. A key ingredient for La Jota and Pasta e Fagiole.
Black Basque - A black bean derived from the Spanish ‘Alubia de Tolosa’. The flavor is rich, sweet with a slight hint of chocolate, and a silky texture. The flavor and texture is unlike any other black bean. Unfortunately, the supply is very limited this year.
Bianchetto - A medium, round white bean with excellent flavor and smooth, dense texture, buttery as opposed to creamy. A very fine bean, though aesthetically not the prettiest.
Tarbesque - Our selection of the French bean called ‘Tarbais’. Good flavor and texture, it is one of the beans traditionally used in the cassoulet. It holds up to long cooking; a trait which is essential to certain dishes. As with the black Basque, the supply is very limited this year. What we have at this market is the last available until fall 2015.
Dutch Bullet - We started growing this variety at the suggestion of Kaas Sahin, the late plant Dutch breeder (Bull's Blood Beet was one of his varieties). The lowlanders like it because, as he noted, there is no flatus after eating it, as if that is a virtue for the more childish of us. Actually, none of beans we grow are particularly prone to creating such gastric maelstroms. We describe it is as the best of a red kidney bean without any of that bean's many flaws, or flatus. Dutch Bullet is thin-skinned with a fine texture and a well-balanced bean flavor with a pleasant sweet edge. It is dark yellow with a red eye. A versatile bean which is very popular with our restaurant accounts.
Zolfino - A light yellow bean identified with the Pratamango River Valley of Tuscany. Vastly superior to the cannellino, or white kidney bean. The bean is thin-skinned, very creamy in texture and is best served as a simple white bean soup. No meat, just the beans, an herb (sage, thyme, or rosemary) and olive oil.
Purgatorio - A small, white bean from Gradoli, a town in the Lake Bolsena area of Italy. The name apparently refers to the fact that it is excellent with seafood, an uncommon trait in beans, and hence well-suited to the observance of the Lenten fast. Someone also mentioned detecting a hint of sulfur in the first stage of cooking, a plausible Dantesque explanation. These beans were recommended to us by Cesar Benelli of the restaurant Al Covo in Venice. Not only does the delicate flavor work nicely with seafood, the skin is thicker and more distinct than that of our other beans, which lends a nice texture when mixed with soft fish. Closer to home, Cathy Whims of Nostrana makes a lovely seafood soup with fish, a hint of cumin, sautéed onions and the beans in their cooking broth.
Best and have a good Thanksgiving,
Ayers Creek Farm